Archive for May, 2012

A Lesson on Forgiveness

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  till seven times?  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

Matthew 18:21-22

Peter here asked a legitimate question.  He wanted to know how many times he should forgive someone.  That’s a good question for the Lord; something that we would want to know.  People are going to wrong us and sin against us and we need to know how many times we are required to forgive them.  We all know that, after a time or two of forgiving someone for the same thing, it gets old.  We don’t want to forgive them anymore.  Peter throws out what he probably thought was a high number: seven times.  Seven times is quite a few times to forgive one person for sinning against you.  I think we would all agree that we would probably be less than forgiving after even three or four times.  So what did Jesus say?

He said that we should forgive not only seven times, but seventy times seven times (that’s 490 times!).  That is an important lesson on forgiveness and I think the lesson is this: if our brother sins against us, we need to forgive them.  Period.  I don’t think that Jesus meant for us to count the number of times we have to forgive someone and when it hits 490, we can stop forgiving.  I seriously doubt that anyone is going to sin against us that many times.  And, if they do, there is probably a good chance that we have also been sinning against them at some point.

We just need to keep forgiving.  God has forgiven us, though we sin against Him over and over again.  We need to show that same forgiveness to others.

Two or Three

Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Matthew 18:19-20

I have often heard this passage used to encourage people at church.  I think that is a good application.  It doesn’t take a million people in some mega-church to get the Lord to take notice.  If two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.  If there are, somewhere, two people meeting together in the name of Jesus, He is with them just as much as He is with any big church.  That can be an encouragement to many people.

I have often thought about Christians in communist countries who aren’t allowed to meet together in a formal way.  They can claim these verses and know that Jesus is there in the midst of them.  I’ve never been in a place where I have been persecuted for my beliefs, but I can only imagine the encouragement that could be gained from this passage.

It can also be an encouragement to those in small churches or small groups.  Even if it’s just a husband and wife praying together, they can know that Jesus has promised to be in the midst of them.

We had some storms here the other day and, the day after, I talked to a lady who had her three grandsons with her in the basement.  They were down there praying that the storms would not hurt them and there would be no tornadoes around them.  A Grandma and her grandsons, praying in a basement about a storm, could find Jesus there in the midst of them.  That is a wonderful thing.

Who to Tell?

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

Matthew 18:15

God has a particular way in which things should be dealt with.  Our dealings with others, and, in particular, our dealings with a brother who has offended or trespassed against us are dealt with in this verse.  Think about how much conflict could be avoided within the body of Christ if this advice were followed on a consistent basis.

“…if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone.”  There is so much wisdom in this verse, it will be difficult to get to it all in one day, but we will try.

If someone does something to offend or hurt us, we are supposed to go and “tell him his fault…”  We don’t go to everyone else and talk about what a jerk ___ is.  We don’t need to gossip.  We need to go to them and tell them what the problem is.  That sounds simple, but it’s usually not as easy as it sounds.

“…tell him his fault between thee and him alone.”  “Between thee and him alone.”  Again, there is no reason to try to go around collecting “allies” against our brother.  After all, he is still our brother.  To often, we complain and gossip about people who have wronged us in some way.  This serves no purpose other than creating a monster in the minds of those to whom we complain and gossip.

How many friendships have been ruined over the years by avoiding this simple advice on “conflict resolution?”  How many brothers and sisters have been offended and never won back because of a backbiting tongue or gossip?  As long as we are human, we are going to have problems in this area, but let it not begin with us!

Seeing God

While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.  And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.  And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.

Matthew 17:5-7

You see the same thing over and over again in the Scripture.  Every time you see anyone seeing (or, in this case, hearing) the Lord God, they have the exact same reaction.  They fall on their faces.  It would be an interesting study to go through the Bible and look at all of the people who fell on their faces in fear, reverence and awe when confronted with God Himself.  The reaction is the same whether it is a disciple of Christ like Peter, James or John or if it is church persecuting sinner like Paul.  Familiarity with God doesn’t serve to lessen this impact either.  The apostle John fell on his face in this passage and again had the same reaction later in life on the isle of Patmos in Revelation 1.

What does this reaction tell us?  It tells us just how important it is to have a reverential fear of the Lord God.  It gives us a small picture of the awesome majesty and glory of the Lord, which I’m sure that we cannot even begin to imagine in our human minds.  When these great men saw the Lord, they fell on their faces.  How much more should we fall on our faces before Him?

We may not physically see the Lord in all of His glory.  If we did, I’m sure that we would react the same way that these men did.  But, even if we don’t see Him physically, we can still figuratively fall on our faces before Him, worshipping Him with a reverential awe.

Staying on the Mountain

And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.  And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.  Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

Matthew 17:1-4

You can imagine what an amazing sight this must have been for the three disciples Peter, James and John.  The Lord Jesus Himself took them apart to a high mountain, where He was transfigured before them while talking with Moses and Elijah.  I’m sure they stood transfixed at the holy sight.

Peter, as usual, was the first to speak and he said something interesting.  He told the Lord that “it is good for us to be here.”  He wanted to just stay there and build three tabernacles and just worship the Lord there.  When we think about it, we can see that this situation would be good for Peter, James and John, but not so good for all of the people in the rest of the world.

Sometimes we have a “mountain top” experience with the Lord.  And, just like Peter, we want to just stay there and worship Him.  While that is a great sentiment, that is not how things work.  Like Peter, at some point, we have to go back down to the valley because the valley is where the people are.  There are people in the valley who need help.  And it is the mountain top experiences with the Lord that allow us to help those in the valleys.

Peter didn’t get to stay on the mountain, and neither do we.  It is glorious to go there with the Lord, but sometimes we need to get down in the valley and help someone.

I Am Resolved (Hymn)

I Am Resolved
Palmer Hartsough (1896)

I am resolved no longer to linger,
Charmed by the world’s delight,
Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
These have allured my sight.

Refrain
I will hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee.
I will hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee.

I am resolved to go to the Savior,
Leaving my sin and strife;
He is the true One, He is the just One,
He hath the words of life.

Refrain

I am resolved to follow the Savior,
Faithful and true each day;
Heed what He sayeth, do what He willeth,
He is the living Way.

Refrain

I am resolved to enter the kingdom
Leaving the paths of sin;
Friends may oppose me, foes may beset me,
Still will I enter in.

Refrain

I am resolved, and who will go with me?
Come, friends, without delay,
Taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit,
We’ll walk the heav’nly way.

Refrain

As Christians, there are certain things that we should all be resolving to do.  Coming to Jesus and following Him is one of those things.  Leaving the paths of sin is another.  There are many others, of course, but this hymn reminds us to be resolving to do them.  We should all say together “We’ll walk the heavenly way!”

What Profit?

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Matthew 16:26

What is our most valuable possession?  What is the one thing that we have that would literally describe as being “priceless?”  Is there anything?  Sadly, when asked those questions, many people would immediately think of some earthly possession, maybe a home or a valuable heirloom.  Maybe they would say that their family or friends would be priceless.  But how many would answer that their soul is priceless?

That is what this verse tells us when it asks this pointed question: “what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”  That is an interesting question for our materialistic world.  So many people spend so much time and effort accumulating as many “things” as possible.  But even if it were possible to accumulate everything in the world – all of the gold and silver, all of the land, all of the money, all of houses and all of the cars – it would still not be enough to purchase our soul.

Our “stuff,” no matter how much of it we have, will not be able to save us or anyone close to us.  No amount of money or influence or power will do any good when it comes to our souls.  That is a humbling thought.

It’s very sad to see how many people are in the Devil’s trap of seeing things perfectly backwards.  He has people believing that they need to accumulate more and more, while completely ignoring their own souls.  They think that they are “profiting,” but in reality, they are losing everything.  They will realize this one day, but, sadly, it will be too late.

Let us be thankful that we have valued our souls.  Let us be even more thankful that Jesus Christ valued our souls enough to die on the cross for us!

 

An Offense to Jesus

Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.  But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.  Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross, and follow me.

Matthew 16:22-24

In this passage, Jesus not only tells Peter to “Get thee behind me, Satan…,” but He says “thou art an offence unto me…”  Imagine Jesus telling you that you are “an offence” to Him.  Much is made (rightly so) of hearing Jesus say “well done, thou good and faithful servant.”  But instead of that, what if we heard Him say “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me.”

That would be a terrible thing that we would want to avoid at all costs.  So how do we avoid it?  I think this passage gives us a couple of things to do (or not do).

First, Peter was told this because he didn’t savour the things of God, but savoured the things of man.  We need to spend our time and our lives focusing on the things of God.  We tend to focus far too much on ourselves and our personal success and comfort.  Focusing on God and His work will help us avoid being an offense to Him.

Second, the next verse tells us that, if we want to follow Him, we need to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.

We all want to follow Him.  As the Bible says, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Our main problem with following Him is the “denying ourselves” part.  If we can focus on Him and not on ourselves, we will be far happier and will never be an offense to Him.

Peter = Satan?

From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.  Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.  But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

Matthew 16:21-23

Just yesterday, we looked at Simon Peter’s confession of Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  That was only five verses earlier in the same chapter.  How quickly things can change!  This time, Peter got it very wrong.

Jesus started here to tell His disciples how He would suffer, be killed, and rise again the third day.  Think of that- the plan of salvation for the world being foretold by Jesus Himself.

But Peter decided to step in and he “began to rebuke him.”  Can you imagine rebuking Jesus Himself?  But Peter did this, and told Him “be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.”  I don’t know if this would go so far as calling Jesus a liar, but it is getting close.  Peter is treading on dangerous ground, as he found out when Jesus responded “Get thee behind me, Satan.”

Just a few verses earlier, he had made the wonderful confession of “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Now Jesus is referring to him as “Satan.”  What caused the switch?  Peter started focusing on the earthly instead of the heavenly.

He didn’t want Jesus to suffer and die.  That is a natural thought.  None of us want someone we love to suffer and die.  But this was Jesus.  Peter forgot what He had come to Earth to do.  To me, it was a simple case of his emotions getting the best of him.  All of us do the same thing from time to time, but we need to watch out and make sure that we are always focusing on the Lord and what He wants instead of our own wants.  Satan fell because of his “I wills.”  We fall for the same reason.

Upon This Rock…

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.  And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:16-18

Jesus asked His disciples who they thought that He was.  Peter, as usual, was the first to answer.  He said that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  That is exactly Who Jesus is: He is the Christ and He is the Son of the living God.

Jesus was clearly pleased with his answer and told him that “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”  The fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God is something that has to be revealed to us by the Father.  People today, just as people back then, know about Jesus.  Many think that He was a just a “good man” with some “good ideas.”  But He is more than that, He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

When the Holy Spirit moves and someone realizes their need for salvation, they need to see Jesus for Who He really is.  They need to understand exactly what Peter said: Jesus is the only Saviour.  He is the “Christ, the Son of the living God.”  It is on that rock that Jesus said that He would build His church.

Some have confused this passage by saying that He would build His church on Peter (Peter literally means “a little rock).  But that is not the idea.  The idea is that He would build His church on the confession of Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And, when you look at it, that is exactly what He has done.  Every true church in the world is built on Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God.  What a blessing to be a part of that church!